Think of McDonald’s and Cola-Cola and you will understand the power of branding. Branding is the combining of tangible and intangible traits and characteristics of a product to make it unique. Manufacturers and companies “brand” products with a promise of its value – that the product is “better” than those of their competitors in the market. But this promise must be delivered in order for the product to be marketed successfully.
You can brand yourself
You can apply the concept of branding to yourself in your search for the right career. Branding, in fact, is essential to your career advancement, as it helps define who and what you are, how “great” you are and why potential employers should hire you!
Branding is all about building a name for yourself. If you don’t brand yourself, others will do it for you. So, be proactive, take the extra effort to establish yourself as a brand. In his book, The Brand You (Reinventing Work) : Fifty Ways to Transform Yourself from an ‘Employee’ into a Brand that Shouts Distinction, Commitment and Passion!, management guru Tom Peters wrote, “Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are the CEOs of our own companies: Me,Inc.”
How do you go about building yourself as a brand? Read on to find out.
Gain job experience
Building your brand starts with listing your past accomplishments and achievements from which you gained new and important experiences. This is the foundation for any career branding exercise. Take the time to plan and focus on what you want as a brand name for yourself. Assess your weak areas and develop a strategy to gain the right experience needed to overcome them.
Experience can be gained through many through many different channels. Seek out internships, freelance jobs or volunteer your services to gain that necessary experience.
Don’t stop learning
While your first degree is necessary to start you off in your career, additional qualifications can help your excel and greatly enhance your career branding. Ask your employer for an education reimbursement benefit because some companies do offer this.
Don’t underestimate the power of self-promotion. Even if you have a fantastic brand, no one will know about it if you don’t promote yourself well. And no one can promote you better than you can.
For fresh graduates, your best promotion tool is your resume. So it’s to your advantage to spend time in understanding the fundamental aspects of writing a good resume and cover letter.
List your key accomplishments, skills and education. Develop a portfolio of important documents, such as transcripts, awards, honours and testimonials. These are your branding tools, so use them to promote yourself. Employers won’t know about your accomplishments and added value unless you tell them.
The best “free” way of promoting yourself is through networking and the power of W-O-M or word-of-mouth. The people with whom you network, and these are basically your friends, colleagues, former employers, teachers and lecturers, will have a thing or two to say about your accomplishments.
So keep your network strong and expand it by staying in contact with the people around you.
Word-of-mouth is what people say about you. Make sure that your network knows of your most recent accomplishments and successes so that they will put in some good words of you.
Prepare your marketing strategy
Now that you have a brand name, you must continue to improve and strengthen it. There are many competing brands (other graduates looking for a career, just like you!) that employers may choose from. The more you cultivate your brand, the more successful you will be in your career search and planning.
As in any business activity, preparation is perhaps the most important element in your branding strategy. The strength of your preparation will carry you through the entire job search process.
This marketing preparation includes asking yourself the following questions:
- Who are you? – determine your strengths and weaknesses.
- What do you want? – determine your job and career interests.
- Where do you want to go? – determine the career path you are going to take.
- Where do you want to work? – determine potential employers, areas to work in,etc.
- How to market yourself? – get your tools ready: resumes, cover letters, portfolios, etc.
- Contacts and network – update your database to learn of new job leads through your contacts and W-O-M.
Write a dynamic cover letter
Once you’ve done your marketing preparation, you can begin to write your cover letter. The keys to a successful cover letter are:
- Get the receiver’s name right!
- A powerful first paragraph – briefly and concisely explain what you want.
- Focus on your key accomplishments, not your duties and responsibilities.
- Not more than one page.
- Use action verbs.
- Request for an interview with a stated time of availability.
Draw up an excellent resume
A resume is a document that describes your education, work experience and skills. But again, what makes an excellent resume is marketing. You have to consider yourself a product, with the employer as the buyer – why should the employer buy (hire) you?
Your resume is a key marketing tool in your career search. To help your succeed, your resume should:
- Help potential employers clearly identify and visualise you.
- Provide the right contacts for employers to reach you.
- Identify your career skills, interests and strengths.
- Highlight your educational success(es).
- Use action verbs.
- Be short and concise, especially for fresh graduates!
Develop strong interviewing skills
What you really need to ace your interview session is confidence, which can be learned. No matter how introverted you are, you can learn to master interviews or at least survive them!
Practice makes perfect. Learn the basic rules, practise and refine your techniques as much as possible. Good marketing preparation will you to the interview, but it is the interview that will determine whether you are successful in getting the job.
Some basic facts about interviews that you need to know:
- The first impression is very powerful – it is the key determining factor to a successful career search.
- The first five minutes are the most crucial – this is when you will be judged.
- Good interpersonal skills are extremely important.
- Dress for success – know the dress code or how to dress professionally.
- Don’t just be responsive, but display initiative as well.
- Prepare some basic interview questions.
- Prepare some questions to ask the interviewer.
- Don’t be too modest because you are selling a product – yourself!
- Don’t be too arrogant, either.
Although this is the final step of your career search, it is as important as the first step. If you do not follow up after the interview, you might as well consider going back to square one, as the interviewer would have forgotten about you. When you follow up on your interview status, you are serving a crucial “wake-up” call or reminder to the potential employer.
How do you follow up?
- If you have sent in an application and haven’t received any response, call the potential employer and request an interview.
- Remember to return employer’s calls.
- Respond immediately to employers’ requests.
- Write a “Thank You” note after the interview.
- Write an Acceptance/Decline letter when you receive job offers.
Branding is essential to your career advancement, as it helps define who and what you are, how “great” you are and why potential employers should hire you. For fresh graduates, your best promotion tool is your resume.
Good marketing preparation will get you the interview, but it is the interview that will determine whether you are successful in getting job.